Having It All; You're Doing It Wrong | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Having It All; You're Doing It Wrong

I'm watching Oprah; the Princess is having a lemon tea and watching with me. Oprah asks her audience, "Can you have it all?" Can you have a career and a family and a self all at once? Elizabeth Vargas, who left the evening news during her second pregnancy, admitted that she felt constantly torn. I applaud her courage to make that decision, for what is best for HER, while the world watches and the National Organization of Women, and others, frowned upon her decision.

Vargas says that even today with more flexibility, 90% of her days are spent feeling like she's not doing it the best she could be. Not being the best reporter, the best mother, the best wife, or the best her. I get that. Guilt. So does the entire Oprah audience; more than half feel they are failing, no matter the lifestyle hey have chosen.

Oprah says you can have it all, but you just can't have it all at the same time. Hmmmm.....

Today I had the opportunity to speak to the Princess's fifth grade classroom about my career. Both of my children participate in gender-separated classrooms, so there I was with 21 girls looking at me, as they decide what kind of woman they will choose to be. I was looking back at them, wondering that myself. Do they view me as successful, even if I don't have an office, the snazzy briefcase or the big paycheck? Do they understand as children the work that motherhood truly, truly is. Do they know mothers are counselors, nurses, huggers, disciplinarians, feeders of stomachs and souls, and all at the drop of a hat, deadlines be damned?

I asked fourteen of the 21 girls to raise their hands; I said that is the number of women in journalism school compared to men. I asked a few to raise their hands; I told them that is the number of women on editorial boards of newspapers, especially in Mississippi. Their teacher asked me what those girls could do to change that going forward. I encouraged them to read, read and read some more. Do not limit yourselves to "fashion" and "boys". I told them to form educated, strong opinions, and to speak them even when some may call them "bossy" or "angry" or tell them to "calm down." I told them to network, and their teacher reiterated that. She told them to not burn bridges. You may not like somebody, but as women, you need to stick together for the whole.

I did *not* tell them the struggle that motherhood creates in the self. No need to jade them now. However, we still live in a world that frowns upon maternity leave, taking children to work when they are not a interfering with the job and who still, although illegal, tend to not hire women who seem on the verge of childbearing age. Don't get me started on single mothers.

In that moment, I had the guilt. I have the guilt at some point everyday. I feel guilty for leaving an incredible position at Mississippi Public Broadcasting to have a focus on two children learning a new lifestyle and home dynamic. I was good at my job, I worked with the most creative, incredible people in Mississippi and I was on the verge of findingn Clyde Frog in that building (we had a Clyde Frog society...ready to bring him back even though he is hidden to prevent this.)

But I after work, I went straight to reading or writing and not to the kids. Now I'm home, I know one child is struggling with reading, and I am here to help her. The other is struggling this week with a bully, and I am here to listen and advise. When I'm here for them, I feel guilty that I am not writing or that I'm not giving the best advice or the best help or my best self. I can't win for losing.

Then the teacher opened the room for questions. Oh my goodness, what a room full of writers! Here are a few of the questions and answers:

Q: Does it hurt your feelings when someone does not like what you write?
A: Yes, but it shouldn't. I should be happy someone is reading, and that someone just happens to disagree. It does not make me a bad person. (Note to my mother self: quit worrying what others think.)

Q: How old were you when you started writing?
A: I was in second grade. In fifth grade, I won the writing award. I wrote a story about finding aliens and the moral dilemma of telling my parents and losing my new friends or not telling my parents and continue getting the candy and gifts the aliens brought me. (They loved this story and admired that I'd won an award that wasn't anywhere near the Pulitzer.)

Q: I'm writing a book now, but I'm not sure if I should write about mermaids, cats or horses? Does this ever happen to you?
A: Yes. Just start with the mermaids and write. I've learned not to spend time thinking of what to write because it only keeps me from actually writing. (Like today. Look, I'm writing about today! No procrastination, and dinner may be a little late.)

Q: I'm in the middle of a story, and I don't know what to write next. Does this happen to you?
A: YES! All the time. If you do not have a deadline to meet, I would suggest putting the story away and pursuing something else for a little while. Plant some flowers, go play basketball or anything that is not writing. You'll find that your story will come to you in the strangest places. (

These little girls had so many questions that the teacher asked me if I could come back later to answer more. She invited me to help them make their class newspaper they will begin in a few weeks. I said yes, and all of the girls clapped at the news. I also promised to send some of my favorite quotations as they are using these as journal prompts each morning.

In that moment, my guilt was replaced with validation, joy and gratitude. How fortunate I am to have the time to speak to girls who are desperate to learn. It didn't hurt that I heard whispers of, "She is so cool!" and "She makes me laugh!" on the way to the door.

In this moment, I'm feeling empowered. My friends tell me they are liking this mom role I've taken on. I say it's the cookies they get when they come to visit, but maybe it is where I'm meant to be right now, available for my husband, my children and my innate need to write, write and write.

Even if I feel like I'm doing it all wrong.

Previous Comments

ID
109992
Comment

I'd also appreciate your favorite quotes for their journal prompts. I'm already sending Todd Stauffer's "Do the right thing and wait."

Author
emilyb
Date
2007-01-23T18:09:58-06:00
ID
109993
Comment

Oooo, this is great, Em. Glad to see you help create a new generation of outspoken edit-girlz. The state needs that DESPERATELY.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-01-23T19:21:00-06:00
ID
109994
Comment

These girls are ready! They are quite outspoken, and I look forward to visiting with them again soon. Especially to make a newspaper! Hate I didn't get pictures. I will next time. Very diverse crowd too. I was surprised by that. And I was happy that this teacher had not used gender separation to reinforce stereotypes. She's committed to getting them to speak up.

Author
emilyb
Date
2007-01-23T19:27:14-06:00
ID
109995
Comment

Yes, but the problem comes at puberty when smart, sassy girls are told to pipe down, don't be "loud," obsess over being skinny and not offending potential beaus with their opinions. We really have to toughen them up early so they can avoid that crap. And keep setting examples, of course. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-01-23T19:38:45-06:00
ID
109996
Comment

Gotcha! I told them about the "fruit cup girl" from Queen Bees and Wannabees....I had heard a girl their age say in a flirty way while playing a game, "We're girls; we aren't supposed to be as smart." Then batted her eyes and smiled. In QB&W, they call this "fruit cup girl." The girl who plays less so she can get a boy's attention. He's strong! He can open the fruit cup for her. Then she gets his attention. I told them we don't care for the fruit cup girl. I'll send that in my quotes too! Just to remind.....

Author
emilyb
Date
2007-01-23T19:48:19-06:00
ID
109997
Comment

Emily, this is a beautiful, beautiful piece of writing, but as a NOW officer I do have to bring up one thing: Emily writes: Suzanne Vargas, who left the evening news during her second pregnancy, admitted that she felt constantly torn. I applaud her courage to make that decision, for what is best for HER, while the world watches and the National Organization of Women, and others, frowned upon her decision. A Google search for "Suzanne Vargas" + "National Organization for Women" turns up zero matches. A Google search for site:now.org + "Suzanne Vargas" turns up zero matches. Are you absolutely sure NOW frowned upon her personal decision to leave the workforce and be a full-time parent? Because that isn't something that NOW generally does. In fact, one of the big issues for NOW is the way that the workplace is considered "real work" but caregiving isn't, which is the rationale behind their Mothers Matter and Caregivers Count campaign (which addresses both workplace needs of mothers and caregivers and issues affecting full-time mothers and caregivers). I'm in no position to speak officially for NOW, but unofficially I feel comfortable saying with absolute confidence that their position is that the decision to be a full-time mother or caregiver is strictly personal, and should always be respected. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2007-01-23T19:57:58-06:00
ID
109998
Comment

Tom, Suzanne stated that NOW had send letters to producers as the felt she was "pushed out" of her job with her new pregnancy. Suzanne stated it was not a push, but a personal decision. I also recognize she is saying this in hindsight. Just what she said :) She was not bashing NOW at all; she understood that from the outside, it did seem like a push out for yet another woman in child bearing years. Which is very REAL, and I love NOW for recognizing that! Side note, "Bitch" magazine is looking to launch a teen-focused feminist magazine. I had "Sassy as a teen and wish my bonus daughter had something similar, but all I find on shelves are fashion, boys and losing weight. "Bitch" is reader supported, so to support this and their other efforts, go to www.bitchmagazine.com and click on donate.

Author
emilyb
Date
2007-01-23T20:04:59-06:00
ID
109999
Comment

SHIT! Try Elizabeth Vargas. Another downside of motherhood/career struggle. Keeping thoughts organized. It's Elizabeth. My apologies.

Author
emilyb
Date
2007-01-23T20:07:45-06:00
ID
110000
Comment

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/28/AR2006052801129.html Can I edit the original? New to this!

Author
emilyb
Date
2007-01-23T20:09:05-06:00
ID
110001
Comment

Sure! There should be an "Edit Entries" option on the main blog screen... I just had to make use of it myself! Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2007-01-24T02:17:36-06:00
ID
110002
Comment

Done.

Author
emilyb
Date
2007-01-24T08:04:30-06:00
ID
110003
Comment

I loooved Sassy when I was a young'un! I would still read it if it were around today and sorely miss the copies I used to have. There definitely needs to be something like that for teenage girls today. Emily, you are definitely a positive role model for these girls and I'm proud to know ya! :)

Author
andi
Date
2007-01-24T09:38:46-06:00
ID
110004
Comment

Good job, Em! I wish I could have been there. I also wish I'd had someone come and speak to my school, a strong and opinionated woman, when I was that age. Although, I think I turned out alright. :) But, there's not TELLING what I could be if that would have happened. I could be in jail.

Author
Lori G
Date
2007-01-24T14:30:58-06:00
ID
110005
Comment

andi, I ADORED Sassy. My boyfriend was called once for "Men We Love." I would kill for my issues back. Especially the one with the "Cat Burrito" recipe. My favorite part was the snarky spine line! I was liking Jane until Jane left :( Not a fan of the new guys in charge. And thank you Lori. That means much coming from you. I'm horribly committed to this Princess.

Author
emilyb
Date
2007-01-24T17:40:04-06:00
ID
110006
Comment

SATC and the "f" word...feminism.... http://www.barnard.columbia.edu/sfonline/hbo/montemurro_01.htm I do love Charlotte.

Author
emilyb
Date
2007-01-25T09:13:11-06:00
ID
110007
Comment

i loved the spine lines, too, and i constantly see people in movies/on TV whom i remember reading about in the "one to watch" or whatever it was called. and remember the words they'd make up? there was like a whole 2-page spread of random things and there was always like a Sassy vocabulary word or something.... ahh those were the days.

Author
andi
Date
2007-01-26T18:50:19-06:00

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